Man-of-the-Series award a ‘painful reminder’ – Raza

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HEARTBROKEN all-rounder Sikandar Raza used his platform while accepting his Man-of-the-Series award at the World Cup Qualifier in Harare that the trophy would be a “painful reminder” of how Zimbabwe could not make it to the 2019 World Cup, which will feature 10 teams compared to 14 teams of the 2015 event.

After accepting the award at the post-match presentation – one that included ICC chief executive David Richardson – following Afghanistan’s win over West Indies in the final, Raza poured out his emotions while also throwing his support behind the Associates teams.

“Certainly, not happy at all,” Raza said in response to commentator Pommie Mbangwa asking if he was “happy” with the award. “I think this trophy will serve as a painful reminder of the dreams that we had and we couldn’t get it done. This trophy will also serve as a reminder for the 15 million dreams that we crushed.

“When I started playing cricket, I thought it was to unite countries, players of different background coming together to play this beautiful sport. Unfortunately, you’ll see that’s not going to happen in next year’s World Cup. It’s certainly quite a tough pill to swallow.”

After winning two of their four matches in the Super Sixes stage of the tournament, Zimbabwe had to win what turned out to be their last match, against UAE, to seal a World Cup berth along with West Indies. They restricted UAE to 235 for 7 in 47.5 overs but a rain interruption revised Zimbabwe’s target to 230 from only 40 overs. Zimbabwe came agonisingly close to lose by only three runs.

Rather than reflect on his own performances during the tournament – which included 319 runs at 53.17, a team-best 15 wickets at 17.60 and three Man-of-the-Match awards – Raza went on to praise the hard work of some of the Associate teams and captains who also bowed out of the tournament.

“This trophy will also serve as a reminder of the hard work that Peter Borren and his Dutch players, Kyle Coetzer and his Scottish players, Rohan Mustafa and his UAE players, and all the other countries that came and couldn’t make it to the World Cup,” he said.

The heartbreak of Scotland’s slim loss to West Indies by five runs was also magnified in their chase of 199 by an iffy lbw decision of top-scorer Richie Berrington when he was given out just before a rain break which placed Scotland behind the par DLS score.

Raza, however, hailed Nepal’s rise to ODI status at the tournament as a result of their eighth-place finish, but called attention to the fact that Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong had lost ODI status. This is in part due to the ICC’s recent decision to limit ODI status to 16 countries.

Since 2005, a minimum of six Associate countries had maintained ODI status, but the decision meant that now only four countries have that designation and Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong were stripped of that status due to finishing in the bottom two of the World Cup Qualifier.

“Yes there were some good things as well,” Raza said. “Congratulations to Nepal and to have their ODI status for the first time but this trophy will also serve as a painful reminder that two of our brother countries lost their ODI status as well and I wish them the very best of luck. Not much to say to be honest, Pommie, just a whole lot of emotions. Just a painful reminder to be honest.”

The 2019 World Cup will be the first time that Zimbabwe will not participate in a World Cup since 1979. As an Associate nation, Zimbabwe qualified for the World Cup in 1983, 1987 and 1992 by winning the respective ICC Trophy tournaments for Associate countries that preceded each of those World Cups. After being elevated to Test status, Zimbabwe received automatic entry to the following six World Cups beginning in 1996 through 2015.